Topic: Regional preferences

It's my understanding that in China, people of different regions tend to prefer different teas. I've gathered that the Mandarin tend to prefer greens, while the Cantonese tend to prefer puerh/black teas, owing to the historical time it took for the teas to reach these respective areas. Are there any others? Are there regional preferences for wulong and/or white teas? I assume red teas are purely for the barbarian occidentals...

Re: Regional preferences

Without having lived in China, or traveled that extensively there, I think that greenish Tiěguānyīn (铁观音)(real or fake) is pretty popular in a lot of places now, as is Jasmine tea (茉莉茶). A lot of areas have local or regional teas that are popular, for example, when I was in Shanghai, people seemed to drink a lot of green tea grown in neighboring provinces, like lóng jǐng (龙井), maybe bì luó chūn (碧螺春) as well as less famous (and more bitter tasting) teas that I can't remember. Most of the tea drinking I saw involved putting the tea leaves, possibly along with some other herbs, in one of those plastic, glass, or metal tea jars with a metal strainer at the top, and drinking directly from there.

Without having been in Guangdong / HK, I don't think pu'er / post fermented / dark teas are the primary tea consumed there, though I'm sure you can get them, particularly at dim sum places. At least at overseas dim sum places I've been to, though, it's not the default tea.

By "Mandarin", do you mean north-eastern people? I don't think Mandarin really describes a group (except, maybe as a keyword in US Chinese restaurants to describe places making

I think oolong teas are certainly popular in Fujian and the areas in Guangdong that are near Chaozhou still, though I think here too, the greener style is more popular, especially with younger people.

In Sichuan, someone told me that green and jasmine teas are most popular there.

I think certain teas are probably more popular with people of a particular generation as well. Most of the younger people from China (either those who live there or overseas Chinese who live here) that I've talked to don't really drink tea that seriously, and if they do drink tea, it tends to be one of the three teas I mentioned above, or milk tea. I'd think the older generation would adhere a little more closely to traditional preferences as a general rule.

I would imagine that (at least if you include crappy teabag tea) red tea is much more commonly consumed than white tea, but I could be wrong. I am pretty sure that in the past, red tea was fairly popular in certain areas, and certainly Yangxian (Yixing) red tea (阳羡红茶) used to be popular, especially with the potters in that area, but I don't know how commonly loose red tea is consumed now. Certainly western style "black" tea is consumed as milk tea, especially in HK (due to the long time British presence, I guess), and I believe (in another cruel twist of irony) that Lipton iced tea and Lipton teabags are actually fairly popular.

Re: Regional preferences

I have been meaning to reply to this thread for a couple of days, mostly because it gives me a chance to rant about tea chauvinism. As I live in China, I have a few things to add to William's excellent summary as well. Of course China has the oldest tea culture, and produces thousands or at least hundreds of different teas, so it's hard to create an accurate picture in just a couple of hours or days of description.

Tea Chauvinism
I mentioned on my weblog meeting with a Tieguanyin salesman. I was asking him what teas he liked to drink besides TGY. He explained to me that in China, everyone drank TGY who knew anything about tea. Whenever I made any comment about any other tea, I was shut down. People in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing all drink TGY unless they know nothing about tea. In my opinion, the opposite could be a more defensible position. People who don't know much about tea drink TGY. At the risk of sounding like a tea chauvinist myself, I will argue this position.

Chairman Mao identified oolong tea as the centerpeice of Chinese tea production. In areas of Fujian where the great majority of oolong was produced, there was lots of available land in agricultural areas, also oolong gardens are more productive. You use about 4 leaves of a shoot to make oolong, only one bud and maybe a couple of leaves when making green tea. I would say that Anxi and TGY received the most attention from Chairman Mao, and tea production was increased.

Today, we can find TGY all over China. It is a very famous name, and production is high enough that it is available everywhere.  Modern qingxiang TGY is about halfway between an oolong and a green tea, and the taste and aroma is acceptable to a wide range of palates. For this reason, often TGY is a prestige product. Business men as well as others brag to each other about how much they paid for their TGY. This is why I say people who know nothing about tea drink TGY. If you have never heard of a tea, you won't be willing to pay a lot for it especially if you're rich because your friends won't have heard about it, therefore when you brag about how much you spent on it your friends laugh at you.

Green tea and flower tea does seem more popular in the northeast, from my limited experience there. Jiangsu and Zhejiang (the provinces to the north and south of Shanghai) are major green tea producers, so in general these types of teas are popular. Fujian and Guangdong people seem to drink a lot of oolong, but fujian produces all sorts of teas including white tea, jasmine green tea, other green teas, even a compressed oolong tea cake in Zhangzhou.

If you leave the big cities, all of these generalizations become less useful. People from smaller cities and towns usually drink their local teas. Tea is produced all over China I have read 18 provinces and municipalities and 21 provinces and municipalities, so you would be hard pressed to name an area which does not produce tea. Many local teas are not famous. Often production is low, and all of the tea is consumed locally. Often teas in less famous areas are processed to imitate famous brands and sold cheaply to retailers who will sell them at large marks ups as Xihu Longjing, etc.

Sometimes there is an intense local pride, and the local tea is seen as the best in the world. This past weekend I visited a tea garden where organic Wuniuzao is grown. The owner told me she doesn't drink anything but Wuniuzao produced in her own gardens. She admitted this was habit, she was used to drinking this tea and likes it. She also said TGY hurt her stomach. Wuniuzao is made into green tea similar to Longjing. I don't think the varietal is as good as some of the famous Longjing cultivars, but its not bad. It is also not often found outside of the city of Wenzhou. Wenzhou also has two other teas. Yandang Maofeng and Taishun Sanbeixiang. Yandang Maofeng was a tribute tea at some point, but production of this tea is so low today that it is rarely found outside of the county of Yueqing where it is produced. These local teas often fetch very high prices locally. The best batches of the most tender buds sell for over a thousand USD a pound, and are a status symbol among local business magnates. You may never drink these teas without going to the area of production and buying some personally, as the outside market is not developed, and sometimes there is no supply even if there was a market.


Re: Regional preferences

I will write down some info from Wang Chong Ren's 王從仁 'Culture of Chinese tea'.

It's clear northern Chinese (Hua Bei, Dong Bei, Sichuan etc) likes flower-scented tea, and Jiangnan(river-south, Shanghai surrounding area) people likes green tea and Minnan/Guangdong people like Oolong. This book also mentions Hunan people who not only drink tea juice but also chew the leaves(was Mao Zedong's habit as well).

Also mentions Minnan(south of Fujian) Gongfu, Sichuan's Gaiwan, Guangdong's Zao Cha(morning tea). Again mentions Hunan's 擂茶 Leicha, a mixed tea with yellow bean, corn, green bean, peanut, sugar etc..says it derived from Song dynasty.

Guibei(Guangxi, Hunan, Guizhou etc)'s ethnic minorities drink 打油茶 Dayoucha. Pours tea oil in an iron pot, stir-fry with glutinous rice. Then put tea leaves and stir-fry again, then pour water/salt and boil...and more...

Yunnan minorities' Yanbacha 鹽巴茶, salt tea. Is what mixes compressed tea with salt.

Baizu's 白族 (ethnic minority) San Dao Cha 三道茶. Treating guests three times with Cha Dao. Is what contains dark sugar, walnut and tea juice.

Tibet's 酥油茶 Suyoucha (Tibetan yak butter tea) and Mongol's 奶茶 Naicha (milk tea) as well are mentioned..


5 (edited by ABx 2008-12-05 08:02:35)

Re: Regional preferences

Interesting! I had heard of some of the others, but I didn't know that they still prepared tea that way. Thanks chrl.

I was also starting to get the impression that oolong was starting to be drunk just about everywhere, in addition to the traditional regional preference. Then again I think I got that from "The Time of Tea" (book), which seems to be wrong about just about every "fact" it presents, with exception to some of the history.

Re: Regional preferences

Hey Will,

Thank you for the insights on Tea Chauvinism :)! From what you relate, it seems to me that China is going through a TGY craze and the hype is affecting people's behavior (same could be said about puerh). Certainly there is no point in discussing tea with close-minded folks. That being said, I find the high roasted variety of TGY quite enjoyable. I am not surprised about the regional preferences. Tea diversity is good :)!

Have a good one,


Re: Regional preferences

It's good to hear you guys bring up the topic of tea chauvinism.  I think it's a shame that some tea lovers (or tea "merchants") have an insecurity or a complex that leads them to belittle others that disagree with them.  I see it on some of the other tea forums and it really is not in the spirit of cha dao.

TGY is very enjoyable, but the modern trend of it going greener isn't quite my style.  I think that a lot of the tea uses the tea's fragrance (or dare I say in some cases an additional floral additive) to mask the weak body of the product.  A traditional TGY takes many days to roast.  The master I met said that it takes 3 full days to do one roasting, during which time he must taste the tea at least once every hour.  The really good product can undergo as many as 4 roasts, although I don't know how much time goes by between roasts.  TGY should be the most labor and time intensive of all Taiwanese teas to make.  Since the production quantity is limited, the price of a good product is higher.  I believe that the Chinese market, unlike the Taiwanese market, cannot sustain such high tea-pricing for oolongs (at least not at the wholesale level).  The modern TGY from China takes much less time to produce and much of what I find that is marketed as being Anxi TGY is in fact not, and from tasting it and looking at the leaves, a lot of it looks to be a blend from several different crops or different farms.

Tea diversity is very good!

Regarding the Tibetan tea, I've had it before.  It's not just regular salted butter, but it's often rancid, salted butter that is used.  That stuff is likely more effective than dieter's tea in cleaning out your insides!!!

Re: Regional preferences

That stuff is likely more effective than dieter's tea in cleaning out your insides!!!

Yes, but it's supposed to come out the other end :X

Re: Regional preferences

i know for a fact that here, most hong kong folks love vegetal variety of tky.  i detest that stuff.  they love it. 
i asked my tea seller and i think that tea is very very regional.  that's why when you say oolong or tky, we are dealing with a very complicated tea in terms of roasting/level of oxidation/taste.  the ranges are huge and it also depends on the tea roaster too.  i have to try samples now or taste the actual tea itself before i commit to buying certain tky or oolong.  even taiwanese oolong.  not popular in hong kong at all.

Re: Regional preferences

It's mentioned in a post somewhere (can't find it now) - I believe the correlation between tea preferences and regional diets is significant. There are also geographic factors when a place is suitable for growing and producing certain tea variety and then people there would have access to that tea and like it.

As William pointed out, there are also global patterns of tea preferences. I guess red tea and oolong tea have better clicks with westerns diet especially dairy foods. I personally found oolong and cheesecake combo very pleasant :D 

I found it interesting that in earlier international showcase kinds of events (like the Panama thing in 1915, I don't know its proper name), Chinese teas that gained international gold and silver medals are mostly tea of stronger flavor, such as Keemun, Northern Fujian Shui Xian, and even the green teas are those with more vivid flavors, such as Hui Ming (惠明茶), Tai Ping Hou Kui, Xin Yang Mao Jian. These teas were loved within China too. Some other teas that were loved more across the country and across near history were not sent to the showcase (I suppose they were not sent there), such as long jing and bee luo chun. I guess it had to do with the strategy of predicting what tea would be liked by westerners (to win the medals) and it had to do with diet differences between westerners and Chinese.


Re: Regional preferences

ABx wrote:

I was also starting to get the impression that oolong was starting to be drunk just about everywhere, in addition to the traditional regional preference.

I have this impression too. Anxi TGY (I heard local government facilitate the advertising and marketing of the tea, which was very effective), Wu Yi Tea, and lately Dan Cong are occupying the market very fast and all these mainly happen in recent years (10-15 years?). I've seen more and more people starting to like Taiwan oolong too (but it's not as affordable as other oolongs, since it's almost American price sold in mainland China). Good thing is the teas triggers revival of local cultures (or the other way around), and tea techniques are improved with stimulation of market (I suppose oolong and puerh we have nowadays are much better than historical average level because more raw tea leaves are used to make mid-upscale teas).

The downside is, some historically inexpensive teas have got so expensive nowadays. I think tea farmers are generally doing well in China's economy (or I've main heard from those doing-well ones), but I am still curious to find out how much profit goes to the middlemen and commercial operations. I kind of suspect that's a very large portion.



Re: Regional preferences

biloba wrote:

I think tea farmers are generally doing well in China's economy (or I've main heard from those doing-well ones), but I am still curious to find out how much profit goes to the middlemen and commercial operations. I kind of suspect that's a very large portion.


be sure to read these stories at the links I posted in this other thread